As we move towards the release of GameMaker: Studio 1.3 we want to give you an overview of our new release strategy, plus make you aware of our Early Access releases and how they may be of use to you. We’re aiming to increase stability in the main product and separate out big changes into a different product stream, so with targeted releases per stream, plus a stable channel which has already had plenty of in-the-wild testing and feedback by our beta users, you can have confidence in your chosen version of GameMaker: Studio.
Early Access is right now a look ahead at GameMaker: Studio 1.3 and a chance for you to get a head-start on implementing the major new features coming up in 1.3 in your chosen projects. There is too much new stuff in 1.3 already to list in detail here (see all of our other announcement posts), but the highlights contain: a rewritten and greatly-improved IAP system; a fully-featured debugger which even works with the mobiles; Adobe Flash .swf images as a resource type; several new drawing events and a unified “application surface” across all platforms so you can take a lot of the headaches around display scaling and per-device specifics out of your cross-platform games. If you’re interested in these features, or if your game uses/will use IAPs, you’ll want to take a look at the Early Access link at the bottom of our usual download site: http://www.yoyogames.com/studio/download
What Early Access isn’t, though, is intended to be stable. As you can imagine, these are large changes to the GameMaker: Studio infrastructure, and so we put out the EA releases as a way to gauge feedback and to catch issues. Each release does go through testing internally, but as so many of the changes are wide-ranging and often affect “external” systems, like IAPs, push notifications, custom extensions (and the whole new way of developing them), we require extra time and help to squash as many bugs as possible before they reach the Stable release channel.
So we made Early Access a separate version of GameMaker: Studio, designed to be installed alongside your regular GM: S 1.2 install and also independent. That way, you can safely play with the new features and not worry about affecting your everyday setup. Although we do advise caution with which projects you decide to open in Early Access – as soon as you make use of the new features in your project you can’t take it back into 1.2 without removing those changes, but you can generally open a 1.2 project and check it still builds/runs in Early Access, etc.
For our Steam users, you can get Early Access in the same way that you currently get beta releases. Right-click GameMaker: Studio in your library and choose “properties”, move to the “betas” tab and select early access in the dropdown. Be aware that as you cannot have a second installation in Steam your registry information will be shared if you do not remove the registry key before moving between beta/stable and early access releases. This can cause some issues as we add or change registry values, such as for the new debugger at the moment, so we advise using Regedit to remove HKEYCURRENTUSER\Software\GMStudioSteam each time you move to or from EA. Yes, unfortunately, this will reset all of your preferences each time.
After 1.3 comes out, Early Access will continue to be where we will release big new functionality first – it will be our “beta-beta” or “canary” build – and so we would encourage you to see it more as an ongoing test-bed and an important tool than a temporary thing to get a look at 1.3. However, we will continue to advise that you avoid releasing (or are at least very thorough in your testing before releasing) products built with Early Access if you can – this will cause issues on Steam Workshop, for example, where players who do not have EA may not have the new functionality you have included in your game in their older installed runner.
As mentioned above, we’re looking to slow the rate at which new releases go out to most people and instead spread our releases over more user types. So, going forward we will change our previous release plan to make Early Access releases the start of each cycle. It will then be followed at some point by a Beta release, with that Beta release eventually being promoted to Stable. Note that there may be multiple EA releases before a Beta, just as we currently do multiple Beta releases before a Stable is released.
This way we can put out all fixes and new features in Early Access, get immediate feedback from a much smaller user-base focused on using the new features, then roll fixes fixes into the Beta channel release later on and get a larger number of people stress-testing the change some more, and then finally the people on Stable will get the release after other people having had a chance to report any issues and a subsequent fix having been made. This is the process which already took place with 1.2.1264, where only the fixes in EA 1.99.44 had been brought over, plus a couple of small features and IDE improvements.
New features will then trickle through the beta/stable pipeline only when they are finished and considered in a decent state of stability from the feedback we get from Early Access users.
Hopefully, you can see how this will benefit all of our different users by getting fixes out just as quickly, but in a more targeted fashion and also more safely, by shielding Stable users from a large number of issues caused by the changes we make when adding new functionality.
So if it sounds good to you, please check out the Early Access release at <a href="http://www.yoyogames.com/studio/download" target="blank">http://www.yoyogames.com/studio/download and do get in touch if you have any issues with it – we urge anyone who chooses to use Early Access to become an active reporter of bugs via http://www.yoyogames.com/support/bug, as the sooner we find out about a problem, the sooner a fix can go into the cycle of releases for everyone.
Hope you like all the new stuff!